Linda di Chamounix (concert version), New York, 19 December 1993
Linda di Chamounix
George W. Loomis, American Record Guide, March 1994

Unfamiliar operas and unfamiliar casts never seem to lose their appeal to the opera enthusiast, as Eve Queller and her Opera Orchestra of New York have proved for more than 20 years. Linda di Chamounix was presented on December 19 in Carnegie Hall. Donizetti's opera about wholesome family values in the French-Italian Alps is another of the composer's late works of distinct refinement, written at a time when newcomer Verdi relied more on brute musical force to arouse audience enthusiasm. A scarce commodity in New York since the Met gave it in the 1930s with Lily Pons, the opera, one of two the composer wrote for the sophisticated Vienna audiences, proved rich in vintage Donizetti lyricism and noteworthy for its structural innovations. It has six duets of various formal designs, while the traditional double aria is hardly represented at all.

In her American debut, Italian soprano Valeria Esposito won the audience immediately with a vocally fresh, imaginatively embellished account of her entrance aria, the famous 'O luce di quest' anima'. Her creamy voice and secure yet spontaneous way with the music made for singing that gave consistent pleasure despite her occasional tendency to breeze through some of the role's more difficult passages. Unfortunately, she sang just one verse of her Second Act mad scene, one of the score's high points; a loud high E-flat at the end hardly made up for the missing measures.

Perhaps even more impressive was Giuseppe Sabbatini, singing for the first time in New York. Here is a man with a firm, ringing tenor voice and also the capacity for handsome soft singing. An intense performer, he crowned Carlo's Second Act aria with a clarion high C, then descended to the final note, which tapered to a pianissimo, all in a single phrase. Sabbatini's is the kind of tenor one was beginning to think Italy could no longer produce.

Linda has four other major roles, a fact that, as much as the oft-cited silliness of its plot, may help explain the opera's relative obscurity. (At the Met, Pons's colleagues included Crooks, Swarthout, De Luca, and Pinza.) In the trouser role of Pierotto, Susanna Poretsky sang eloquently in the ballata 'Per sua madre ando una figlia', with its arresting melody that recurs more than once as the opera progresses. Roberto Frontali sang stylishly as Linda's father and brought fervor to their Second Act duet. OONY stalwart Paul Plishka, imposing as always, was the Prefect, while Robert Heimann was diverting in his lively account of the Marchese's buffo aria. An obviously pleased Queller guided her forces with a sure hand.


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